U.S. Sen. John Cornyn will serve as minority whip in the 113th Congress after Senate Republicans elected him to the leadership post on Wednesday morning.
Also on Wednesday, Cornyn's Texas counterpart, Sen.-elect Ted Cruz, was chosen as National Republican Senatorial Committee vice chairman. The NRSC works to ensure that Republicans are elected to the Senate.
In a statement immediately after the vote, Cornyn said, “I’m honored to have been chosen by my colleagues to help lead our caucus during such a critical time for this country."
As minority whip, Cornyn will be second-in-command behind Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Cornyn's job will be to help outline the GOP's national priorities and to make sure his Republican colleagues support party leadership and vote accordingly.
He replaces retiring Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.
Cornyn acknowledged the challenges that lie ahead for the country, "beginning with the looming fiscal cliff" — the term used to describe a series of tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 1 if Congress fails to reach a budget deal.
But lawmakers in both major political parties largely failed to work together in President Obama's first term.
In sizing up the results from last week's election night, Brian Smith, an associate professor of behavioral sciences at St. Edward's University, said the two parties had moved even further apart ideologically.
"The Republicans have moved to the right in the Senate and the Democrats have also moved to the left," Smith said. "And that's going to make it difficult for anybody to get anything done in the Senate."
Cornyn said he knows what's in store. "I am optimistic the urgency of the moment will bring members of both parties together to avert what would be an economic disaster," he said.
State party leaders wasted little time congratulating Cornyn. Gov. Rick Perry said, "Now he has the opportunity to bring his solid Texas values to the leadership table and work to lead our federal government away from its failed policies."
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst echoed the sentiment, saying, "Senator Cornyn has been a consistent advocate for Republicans in Texas and in Washington, and I know he will continue to lead by principle."
"His election to this important post is a testament to the high esteem in which he is held among his Republican colleagues in the U.S. Senate," said Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri.
Cornyn had served as NRSC chairman through two election cycles. Because Democrats maintained a Senate majority through the election, some had questioned if another senator would challenge Cornyn for whip.
But Cornyn ran unopposed.
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., took Cornyn's place as NRSC chairman during the leadership election Wednesday morning.
Cruz will serve as NRSC vice chairman along with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. Praising Cruz's selection, Munisteri said, "His leadership will be crucial to Republican success in 2014, and I applaud his elevation to this important post."